MACKENZIE, Colin. Stornoway, Lewis, Outer Hebrides 1753/54? — Calcutta 8.5.1821. British (Scottish) Colonial Officer and Pioneer of Indology in India. In India 1782-1821. Son of Murdoch M., a merchant. Through a clan connection he obtained a cadetship and came to Madras in 1782. From 1783 Second Lieutenant of Madras Engineers, 1789 First Lieutenant, 1793 Captain, 1806 Major, 1809/10 Lieutenant Colonel, 1819 Colonel. He became interested in Hindu civilization and started his collections in 1783 in Madurai, was then stationed in Coimbatore, Dindigul, Madras, Nellore and Guntur. In 1790-92 he participated in the war against Tipu Sultan, in 1796 in Ceylon. He prepared the first good map of the Deccan. In 1799 again in war against Tipu, then in Mysore Survey until 1806and conducted the first survey of Mysore. From 1807 Surveyor-General of Madras, in 1811-15 commander of engineers in Java. Conducted mapping of Tamilnadu, from 1819 as Surveyor-General of India in Calcutta. Died before he was able to return to Europe to arrange his extensive collections. C.B. 1815. Married 1812 Petronella Jacomina Bartels (of Ceylon, with Dutch ancestry).
Mackenzie was one of the first Britons who collected inscriptions and a pioneer of Jaina studies, but best he is remembered of his enormous collection of manuscripts. He himself never learned any Indian language and was thus dependent on his Indian assistants, whom he much appreciated and partly paid from his own purse.After his death this famous Mackenzie collection was purchased from his widow by Marquis Hastings. It contained manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Javanese and Burmese, inscriptions, coins, statues, drawings, plans, etc. The main part of it was brought to England in 1823-25 and deposited in India Office, only South Indian manuscripts and inscriptions remained and were deposited in 1828 in the library of Madras College where they were catalogued by William Taylor (now in Government Oriental Manuscript Library).
Publications: Papers on routes in Nellore and on the sources of the Pennar in Dalrymple’s Oriental Repository; Life of Hyder Ali in Oriental Annual Register 1804; histories of the Bijayanagar and Unaganda Rajahs, ibid.; papers publ. in a Batavian journal.
– “Account of the Pagoda at Perwuttum”, As. Res. 5, 1798, 8o repr. 303-314.
– “Remarks on some Antiquities on the West and South Coasts of Ceylon”, As. Res. 6, 1800, 8o repr. 425-454.
– “Account of the Jains”, As. Res. 9, 1807, 244-286; “An Account of the Marriage Ceremonies of the Hindus and Mahommedans, as practised in the Southern Peninsula of India”, TrRAS 3, 1835, 170-184.
– The Mackenzie Collection. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Manuscripts and Other Articles Illustrative of the Literature, History, Statistics and Antiquities of the South of India. Edited by H. H. Wilson. 1. 581 p. Calcutta 1828, rev. ed. 1882.
Sources: Life in the *2nd ed. of his Catalogue, 1882; H.M[anners]C[hichester], D.N.B. 35, 1893, 138f.; Buckland, Dictionary; *Al. Johnston, MJLS 2, 1835; *W.C. Mackenzie, Colonel C.M.: First Surveyor-General of India. Edinburgh & L. 1951; *T.V. Mahalingam, Mackenzie Manuscripts: Summaries of the Historical Manuscripts in the M. Collection. 1-2. Madras 1972-76; *P. Robb, “Completing ‘Our Stock of Geography’ or an Object ‘Still More Sublime’, C.M.’s Survey of Mysore, 1799–1800”, JRAS 3rd S. 8, 1998, 181-206; *Th. R. Trautman, (ed.): The Madras School of Orientalism. Producing Knowledge in Colonial India. New Delhi: O.U.P. 2009; T. Wolffhart, Wissensproduktion als Staatsaufgabe. Colin Mackenzie (ca. 1753-1821) und das Projekt eines umfassenden Survey in Indien. Munich 2010 (diss.); Wikipedia with portrait.